Fibroblast growth factor 21 improves hepatic insulin sensitivity by inhibiting mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 in mice

Qi Gong, Zhimin Hu, Feifei Zhang, Aoyuan Cui, Xin Chen, Haoyang Jiang, Jing Gao, Xuqing Chen, Yamei Han, Qingning Liang, Dewei Ye, Lei Shi, Y. Eugene Chin, Yu Wang, Hui Xiao, Feifan Guo, Yong Liu, Mengwei Zang, Aimin Xu, Yu Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Among the 22 fibroblast growth factors (FGFs), FGF21 has now emerged as a key metabolic regulator. However, the mechanism whereby FGF21 mediates its metabolic actions per se remains largely unknown. Here, we show that FGF21 represses mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) and improves insulin sensitivity and glycogen storage in a hepatocyte-autonomous manner. Administration of FGF21 in mice inhibits mTORC1 in the liver, whereas FGF21-deficient mice display pronounced insulin-stimulated mTORC1 activation and exacerbated hepatic insulin resistance (IR). FGF21 inhibits insulin- or nutrient-stimulated activation of mTORC1 to enhance phosphorylation of Akt in HepG2 cells at both normal and IR condition. TSC1 deficiency abrogates FGF21-mediated inhibition of mTORC1 and augmentation of insulin signaling and glycogen synthesis. Strikingly, hepatic βKlotho knockdown or hepatic hyperactivation of mTORC1/ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1 abrogates hepatic insulin-sensitizing and glycemic-control effects of FGF21 in diet-induced insulin-resistant mice. Moreover, FGF21 improves methionine- and choline-deficient diet-induced steatohepatitis. Conclusions: FGF21 acts as an inhibitor of mTORC1 to control hepatic insulin action and maintain glucose homeostasis, and mTORC1 inhibition by FGF21 has the therapeutic potential for treating IR and type 2 diabetes. (Hepatology 2016;64:425-438).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-438
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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